There are many interesting adornments to the rooftops in Jerez, but perhaps the most charming are the large nests of the white storks. These magnificent migratory birds normally arrived in Spain from equatorial Africa to breed in February and March as the weather begins to warm up again. Roman farmers took the arrival of the storks as a cue to plant their seeds. There is an old Spanish saying: “por San Blas la cigüeña verás, si no la ves mal año es.” (By Saint Blas’ day (3 February) you’ll see the stork, and if you don’t it will be a bad year).
Global warming has rendered this saying outdated and going to Africa unnecessary in recent years, as the birds can find sufficient sustenance in Spain. Many still work their way north stopping off at the Coto Doñana for a rest and some food before going back to the nests they left behind which they reuse and often enlarge. Many however now stay in Andalucía. As storks are seen as bringers of good luck, some bodegas encouraged them by feeding them or building them nests, and certainly there are many nests to be seen on bodega chimney-tops.
Once a building project was underway which needed a crane, but in no time it was found that storks had started to build a nest on its counterweight. The men removed the twigs but in no time they were back again and then it was discovered that eggs had been laid and the job had to wait till the chicks were born. Later netting was put on cranes, but the tenacious storks sometimes managed to use it to help build the nest.
White storks are content near humans and nest on buildings, pylons and chimneys but the rare black ones prefer places more inaccessible to humans. The latter are listed as in danger of extinction though they are being helped to breed at Jerez Zoo, some of whose keepers even built artificial nests to encourage them. It is thought that there are now some fifty pairs in Jerez, and let us hope they can bring some much needed good luck to the bodegas.